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FTC: Fake check scams on the rise, increasingly targeting college students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Federal Trade Commission continues to see a rise in fake check scams, which can happen in many different forms and cost consumers thousands of dollars.

According to the FTC, complaints about fake check scams have gone up by 65% since 2015 and people in their 20's report losing the most money to the scams, a median loss of $2,000, compared to just over $300 for all scams in general.

Scammers are also targeting college students through their university email addresses, sometimes spoofing the college or university's logo in order to make it appear that the email is coming from an official channel.

The CBS4 Problem Solvers spoke to the FTC's Emma Fletcher about the rise, which Fletcher said could be due to people's misunderstanding of check handling.

"People think that money is fast, you get it fast, you send it on your phone ... but in fact checks go through a very slow process," Fletcher said. "They're looking for people who don't know that, which is most of us."

Fletcher said that because banks have to provide your money quickly, after you deposit a check it may show up in your account right away, but then weeks later the bank could discover it as a fraud and take that money away.

Fake check scams cover any case where a person sends you a check for more money that you're expecting, then asks you to send some of that money to a third party. Most often, the scams are disguised as job opportunities or happen when you sell items online, but they can also be perpetrated in many other ways.

"If you get a check from someone you don’t know and you can’t keep all the money, that’s a big red flag. ... (If) they’re asking you to wire money, they’re asking you to buy gift cards, money order, don’t do it, period. It’s a scam," Fletcher said.

If you do get a check that suspect to be suspicious, don't deposit it. You should report it to the FTC by going to ftc.gov/complaint at the link here.

Contact our CBS4 Problem Solvers team with a tip or problem you'd like us to consider at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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